Making a short film is the rite of passage for many new filmmakers. If you have never made a short film, now is the time. Not only are there a gazillion film festivals that offer a short movie program, but with websites like YouTube, you have the ability to reach a global audience.
This is better than the old days. Back then, making a short film meant that your work would get projected in theaters before the feature presentation. But that trend ended. The short film was replaced by trailers and advertisements.
In the decades that followed, there wasn’t much of a market for short films. It was almost impossible to make money with a short film. As a result, finding investors to back a short was super challenging.
How To Make A Short Film
While I can’t say that the economics of short movie making has improved dramatically, the emergence of crowdfunding, festivals and internet based video platforms offers hope. But regardless, you’re a filmmaker. And making a short film is a great training ground for getting your feature made, seen and sold.
Many people in Hollywood bounce around for years pretending to do work, when all they are really doing is pretending. Many of these people call themselves producers, yet they have no screen credits and have frankly failed to do anything! Don’t do that. If you haven’t yet made a short, my suggestion is to get started!
For your first few movies, don’t spent time worrying about lighting or special effects. Just learn how to utilize your limited resources and make something cool out of nothing. Here is a quick video outlining my tips for making a short film.
Use The Resources You Have
Technology has come a long way. For a few hundred dollars, you can now buy a camera that produces cinematic results. And if you can’t afford to grab a professional camera, then just utilize any camera you can get your hands on. And yes, this includes camera phones. In the event you cannot yet afford your own equipment, then find someone who already has gear and make friends.
I also suggest you focus on a story you can tell in three minutes or less. When I was managing a film program, a lot of first-time filmmakers created stories that focused on some guy staring into a mirror and talking, or some girl shaving her head while reminiscing about apples and spiders. These films sucked, but they were good practice.
Your initial movies will probably suck too. And even if you think it is great, when you watch it five years from now, you’ll think it sucks. So don’t worry about any of it. Give yourself permission to suck. This is how you practice your craft. In fact, here is an example of a terrible short film:
Your First Short Films Will Suck
Yeah. It is MY second short film and I don’t know what I was thinking. But it was good practice. And despite the fact it was a stupid art piece that presented nothing new to the world, I learned a lot. And it simply sucks.
Keep in mind, I included this short film example this to provide encouragement. Odds are good you can do better than this poo. I challenge you to get started and do something better! Prove it.
Just remember, the more you practice, the better you get. And if you’re making a short film, but find yourself really low on short film ideas, then the next best thing is to create a music video… Which is essentially a short movie too.
Try NOT To Do Drama
A while back, I stopped by the Haig Manoogian Screenings of the best short films. These films represented the best of the best of the NYU film school, and were presented by former NYU alumni Eli Roth. Shot in film (not HDSLR video), all of the movies looked expensive and awesome. But most were dramatic…
I don’t know why, but most student filmmakers create serious and dramatic movies. So if you think you have something dramatic you just HAVE to share, by all means, make your movie! Case in point, I thought the best movie of the night was Little Horses. Skillfully directed by Levi Abrino, this movie has a ton of heart.
Here is an excerpt:
Okay… Make Drama If It’s Good
While my review of Levi’s short film is slightly biased (I have been a fan of Levi’s work for years), the laughter of the audience was evidence that Levi’s movie offered a nice break from all the drama. So anyway… Go Levi!
Keep in mind that your short film will probably end up on YouTube. So if you can be funny and get Internet viewers to share your movie with other people who will then share your movie with other people, you will have achieved a great thing.
In addition to all the points mentioned thus far – Your audience is your business. Growing your own audience is up to you. And the process starts with making a short film, getting your movie online and exposing your work to the world.
5 Awesome Tactics For Short Filmmakers
After making a few short films, you may find yourself getting bored. This is actually a good sign, because it shows you’re growing. When this happens, begin to come up with more complex short film ideas and then write a well crafted screenplay.
- In the event you have not yet made a short movie, write one or two page scripts and then produce your story on a borrowed camcorder.
- Edit the footage on a friend’s computer.
- Upload to YouTube. Test audience reaction. Learn from it. Then make another!
- Once you feel confident with short storytelling, move on to bigger and bigger projects.
- Keep pushing yourself. Keep refining and learning!
The short movie marathon exercise described above will provide you with a fundamental understanding of how to shoot scenes for minimal cost and still make them interesting. Making a short film will help you save time and money when you create your feature, while providing you with endurance, experience and the confidence to make movies with greater efficiency.
Get 101 Short Film Ideas
When you upload your work for the world to watch, audience feedback will reveal areas needing improvement. Even though you’re working with non-professional equipment and talent, if you can learn to make great movies with a small camera, you can make them with a big camera.
Theoretically, if you make one or two three-minute movies like this every weekend for six months, you will have the equivalent experience of making a feature. Then later, when the feature filmmaker in you is ready, the feature will reveal itself.
Sometimes making coming up with ideas can be a pain in the butt. So I put together an action guide specifically designed to help you get some practice. Get 101 Short Film Ideas here. In addition to providing short movie ideas, this action guide also contains some extra bonuses!